Four Black Bears Killed After Causing Issues at Alaska Homeless Campground

by Amy Myers

It’s never officials’ first choice to kill any troublesome wildlife. Unfortunately, though, Alaska park staff had to make this decision when four black bears were exhibiting some dangerous behavior near a campground where people without housing had been staying.

Shortly before the incident, the town of Anchorage had shut down one of the homeless shelters. This sent its hundreds of inhabitants in search of a new homestead. They settled on the Centennial Campground, quickly attracting a group of four black bears to the location. Soon enough, the bears began entering tents to scavenge for hygiene products, food, and other items with a scent. The group included a sow and her two cubs.

“Historically, Centennial Campground has had black bear conflicts, but in recent years has worked with ADF&G to increase their camper compliance and enforce their rules for food storage,” the Alaska Department of Fish & Game stated in an official release. “Keeping bears away from human food is the most important part of preventing conflicts and reducing confrontations between bears and people.”

Alaska Officials Worried Black Bears Would Return to the Campground in Future Years

As the ADF&G explained, bears will return to the same location every year for food. The concern now was that the bears recognize the Centennial Campground as a reliable food source. As such, they would likely continue to frequent the area and likely become more aggressive while doing so.

That said, the department did not take the decision to euthanize the black bears lightly.

“Centennial Campground staff are doing the best they can to manage the campground and minimize attractants, but there are still a lot of tents with food in them,” area biologist Dave Battle told the Anchorage Daily News. “Until that changes, more bears are going to come into the campground and get into tents.” 

“Killing any particular bear is a very temporary solution,” Battle continued. “There are always going to be more bears in that [campground] vicinity because of its location.”

Community Responds to Homeless Occupancy of Campground

When the Anchorage shelter closed on June 30, the city actually suggested that Centennial Campground become the temporary location for those without housing. But some, including State Senator Bill Wielechowski, strongly opposed the idea.

“Had your administration provided notice to the public and consulted with the Northeast Community Council, you would have learned that there are numerous reasons why Centennial Park is an inappropriate location for locating a homeless campsite,” Wielechowski wrote in a letter to Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson. Wielechowski further cited fire dangers, overcrowding and “the breaking of city ordinances.”

He even went so far to call it an “unsafe environment for both campers and nearby residents.” 

Oddly enough, though, he didn’t mention the risk of bears in the letter. Anchorage has 350 black bears and 65 brown bears that share the space with its near 300,000 human residents. Bear attacks are still relatively rare in the town.